ONE AND THREE DISCS (AFTER KOSUTH)

 

Super 8 film, DVD, player, speaker

 

It is over 50 years since Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual work One and Three Chairs challenged its viewer to locate the “real” by choosing between an object & its visual or textual representations. Replacing Kosuth’s chair with a DVD, this piece restates his question at a time when our experience of the world is actualised & often distorted through digital representation. Once a widespread tool for artists & curators, the DVD is in the rearguard of physical media, as artefacts & archives are increasingly ‘dematerialized’.

 

Three plinths sit along a gallery wall. To the right is a speaker, playing audio of the artist reading academic texts, manuals & advertisements extolling the robustness & fidelity of the medium. In the middle is a DVD, its gold colour recalling trophies won by recording artists in the CD era; objects now sold as novelty gifts. On the left a screen shows a video of the same disc in situ, shot on super 8mm, &, like Kosuth’s photograph, in black & white. The frame is still but imperfections - dust, grain, weave - confirm the medium as film & echo the DVD’s dying role distributing movies.

 

The tension between analogue & digital forms suggests the longevity of the former over the latter. In mainstream & creative life, people increasingly embrace traditional forms such as vinyl records & film photography, while new technology hastens the obsolescence of once dominant digital media. As with Kosuth, the question is where meaning is created: In the description or the object defined by it. The hubristic words coming from the speaker helped define the DVD & assisted in its success. But the viewer sees the hollowness of these words: DVDs only acquire meaning when imprinted with the digital traces of an artefact. Speeding towards disuse, it is emptied of that meaning, yet sits on a pedestal as a museum-piece, an artefact in its own right, at last.

 

Work in progress.  Showing at "Creative Legacies: Collaborative Practices for Digital Cultural Heritage", Valletta, 9-12 September 2018.

Website and all images and text, unless otherwise attributed, © 2018 Paul Holmes.